President Bush, speaking after a White House meeting Monday with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, repeatedly called news of North Korea's violation of the agreement "troubling," but said the United States would pursue a diplomatic track to bring Pyongyang back into compliance.
"I view this as an opportunity to work with our friends in the region and work with other countries in the region to ally against the proliferation of serious weapons and to convince (North Korean President) Kim Jong Il that he must disarm," Bush said.
"To this end, I'm going to be talking to Jiang Zemin at Crawford."
Bush said he would also raise the subject at the meeting in Mexico over the weekend of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
"I intend to make this a important topic of our discussions," he said.
"It is a troubling discovery, and it's a discovery that we intend to work with our friends to deal with. And I believe we can do it peacefully," he said. "I look forward to working with people to encourage them that we must convince Kim Jong Il to disarm for the sake of peace."
The White House on Monday disputed allegations it kept lawmakers in the dark on the looming North Korea situation during efforts to obtain a congressional resolution for military action on Iraq.
Spokesman Ari Fleischer said Pyongyang's suspected violation of the 1994 nuclear weapons accord was made known to some Capitol Hill legislators and their staffs through a series of special administration briefings.
Fleischer said the briefings were in September, but some offered the briefings declined to attend because they were preoccupied with the Iraq situation, while others had scheduling problems.
"The fact of the matter is, the administration, once we had the evidence ourselves that was developed over the course of the summer, very quickly began the consultations and discussions with leaders on the Hill and staff on the Hill about it and that took place principally in September," Fleischer said. "The information itself, which is the most valuable thing ... that was shared and shared with all the appropriate people on the Hill in the month of September, and then the consultations began after Secretary (James) Kelly's trip (in early October).
"And there were people who were offered briefings and declined them, there were people on the Hill who were told there were briefing on North Korea and they said if it wasn't about Iraq they were not interested, thank you."
The White House rebuttal came amid accusations from some in Congress that the White House had kept quiet on the Korea situation so as not to upset the prospect of Congress approving an Iraq resolution, given the complication of North Korea and its pursuit of a weapon of mass destruction.
Intelligence agencies believe North Korea has one or two nuclear devices developed prior to 1994 through its garnering of weapons-grade plutonium at a reactor at Yongbang.
Under the 1994 accord with the Clinton administration, North Korea agreed to halt nuclear weapons development in exchange for fuel oil and other economic aid.
Last week it was reported North Korea was in violation of the accord and had actually admitted to it, saying the pact was nullified.
The administration said North Korea admitted its violation Oct. 4 when Kelly, an assistant secretary of State, on a visit to the North Korean capital presented them with evidence of their pursuit of enriched uranium, used in nuclear weapons.
The reason for the admittance is a matter of speculation. Some believe the North is using it as a gambit to get more aid for a country where hunger is rampant.
North Korea, one of the world's most impoverished nations, has some 1 million troops along its border with the South, with whom it fought a war in the early 1950s. The United States, which participated in that war, maintains about 37,000 troops in South Korea.
Some in Congress have accused the administration of withholding the news. On Sunday, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., head of the Senate intelligence committee, said on television he had not been informed prior to reading of the situation in the newspapers.
On Monday, Graham's spokesman clarified the situation.
"He hadn't been," Paul Anderson told United Press International. "Apparently some members were given advance notice prior to the announcement. Sen. Graham said he had not been."
When asked if anyone in the office was told about a briefing, he said:
"There is some confusion about that. The staff director of the intelligence committees told me on Friday that they (the White House) had called and attempted to schedule a briefing, but they weren't able to schedule it. He said he was never told the topic was North Korea, and said, certainly if someone had been more specific and said we have to brief members, we have to brief Senator Graham on North Korea, he would have recalled that."
Graham, he said, did receive a briefing Saturday while in Florida via a secure telephone line.
The White House Monday, echoing statements over the weekend by Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, differentiated between Iraq and North Korea.
Iraq, it said, has used weapons of mass destruction, invaded a neighboring country 12 years ago and continues to defy U.N. resolutions of disarmament. North Korea, though in violation of its agreement, could be more open to diplomatic and other pressures for resolving the dispute.
"He (Saddam) has thumbed his nose at the world for 11 years," Bush said Monday. "The United Nations has passed 16 resolutions to deal with this man, and the resolutions all aimed at disarmament, amongst other things. And for 11 years he said, 'No, I refuse to disarm.'
"Now, what makes him even more unique is the fact he's actually gassed his own people. He's used weapons of mass destruction on neighboring countries, and he's used weapons of mass destruction on his own citizenry."
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